Wow!! Just…wow!!! Between the hippie buses, tweekers, and the parking lot arguments…who needs TV???
So, apparently, Eugene is the hippie capital of the world. Not just the country, but the world. And not just the young people trying re-enact the “Age of Aquarius”, there are many of the originals still around trying stay young. Every bus we see has been decorated in different ways and colors. One we saw was done with a fish theme. Another was more colorful, but looked as though they added a top level to part of it. We’ve even seen the RAGE bus here in Eugene.
The tweekers bring another form of entertainment to watch. Having never been around them myself, it’s interesting to see them and hear their stories. Some of the ones we’ve met are former users and are trying to make their lives better, trying to rebuild what they had lost. Some of them are long time homeless and just prefer to “play the system” which hinders so many who are in need of the system.
And adding to our nightly entertainment has been the parking lot arguments. Whether it’s between one drunk and her “friend” or the couple that “drinks together” living in the van…nights are never dull. We are just flies on the wall. The other day we watched as one guy screamed at a lady because they had stolen an air mattress from the local Walmart and were trying to return it without a receipt. Guess they didn’t see that they could only exchange those and not return them (oh, the lovely people of Walmart). One lady, who seems to be a permanent resident of the parking lot, stays drunk and is always looking to others to help her. She’s very disturbing to be around and we try to stay away from her as much as possible.
I’m starting to feel as though I need to start carrying “Stupid” signs to pass out to the stupid people…would save so much trouble for others because then they would just understand. Or maybe signs that say “I lost all of my brain cells from (alcohol, meth, whatever)”. Maybe that will help others who are trying to carry on conversations with them, or maybe try to walk away (or run depending on the person and conversation) while the person is just talking constantly in circles. We speak fluently in circles, and we have difficulty keeping up with some of them.
There is definitely a wide cast of characters here amongst us. Our favorite so far is our friend “Dr.” Ray. Talking with him is like having a conversation with a historian/medical doctor/hippie/genius every day. His scathing wit with just enough of a touch of insanity to make our conversations not just enjoyable, but hilarious at times. He is the “neighborhood watch” and makes sure no one gets hurt, everyone “plays by the rules”, and runs off those who would draw the unwanted negative attention. He’s an amazing ally to have on your side, with a heart of gold, even though he doesn’t reveal it too often to many people. He has become one of a few friends we look forward to seeing and interacting with every day.
Been volunteering in Eugene while we’ve been working to find employment. It’s been fulfilling to be able to give back even while we have so little to give. I’ve been working in the laundry room and hubby has been helping clean the main dining room in the afternoons when he is able. Working the the laundry room, I have met many more interesting characters. But none as interesting as our friend Josh. He is another volunteer in the laundry room and I throughly enjoy working with him. Every time we work together, he always makes me laugh. He is a man with a strong heart and an old soul. He is of a rare breed of men who will look women in the eye when talking to them and will actually listen to them and be a shoulder to cry on. He gives respect, but he doesn’t take any crap either. He will be the first to tell someone if they are out of line or if they need to leave. His story is a long one…one I’m slowly getting. He’s another, what I call, “iceberg”…what people see is only 10%…because that is all that shows above the surface.
Another, old and kindred soul we have met is Katherine. Her and her family has been through so much. She is fighting to keep her family together while working to build something better for them. She is another like me…another who feels deeply and like me, it shows. Her story is also a long one…another I am still collecting. She and her family are one of many who are striving to make things better.
God has a plan…He has a purpose. We don’t know what it is yet. Then again, I don’t think anyone actually does until that light bulb goes off. We are all placed in situations because we need to learn from them. Sometimes it’s to learn about others. Other times it to learn about ourselves. We don’t want to be in the van anymore. We long to be in a place with a bed and a fridge…hopefully a place to call our own, or even another motel room…but we want to stop sleeping in the van. We’re working to change that…but we’re learning as we go along. We’re learning about what we can and can’t do now, learning about ourselves, and learning about what we want to do. This is why we collect the stories we do. With each story we take a part of that person with us and we learn from them.
We once read that the people in Portland live at least three lives; that Portland is becoming the home to the most cracked of crackpots and misfits among misfits. While I will have to take Katherine Dunn, author of “Geek Love” and of the Introduction to “Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk In Portland, Oregon” by Chuck Palahniuk, on her word about Portland; I would have to say the same is for here in Eugene. Every person we have met and have heard their stories has had at least three identities. Mother, wife, and drug user. Veteran, homeless, and alcoholic. Spouse, parent, and abuse victim. Every one with their own story to be heard.
Eugene is the had become the home to the broken and botched of all the races here. As though if we were all tossed onto the Island of Misfit Toys, heaped onto one large pile with only each other for support. We are the broken dolls that time forgot, left in the world that has moved on without us. But some of us have found a quiet strength and kinship. And together, we share our joys, pains, triumphs, challenges…together with the help of organizations like FISH, St. Vincent De Paul, and Catholic Community Services; we are able to slowly start piecing our shattered lives back together.
Welcome to the Land of Misfits and Crackpots. Where the weak find strength and the powerless find faith.